“Go play with your friends!”

In advergaming, Facebook, Uncategorized on September 3, 2009 by gingercatmom

Kids today don’t need to leave the house to play with their friends. In fact, they don’t even need to leave the couch. According to a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study, kids 8-18 spend an average of 48 minutes per day online and 32 minutes playing console video games (I would suspect that these figures are even higher today). Online gaming combines these two media worlds, whether kids play through the computer or gaming systems such as X-Box Live. There always somebody to play with in a virtual world. However, keeping an eye on the kids takes on a whole new meaning when parents are policing the backyard that exists online.

X-box Live has a variety of parental controls that allow parents to control the games kids play, to approve playmates and to filter the content that can be downloaded when kids play the gaming system online. As a parent of avid teenage X-Box players, I must confess to not exploring the parental controls on the game systems in my own home. Frankly, I would expect that if my kids really wanted to, they could override any controls I set on their game. We do however, talk about the appropriateness of certain games and role-play behaviors relative to our family’s values and moral structure.

The Kaiser Study concluded that while parents express concern about the impact of media, many kids surveyed say their parents have not set rules about video game use and they infrequently check the ratings or advisories on game. Surprisingly, the study also found that kids who spend the most time with media also report spending time with parents, pursuing hobbies and even engaging in physical activity. Their lives are more than just media use.

Kids, like adults, crave connections with others that share their interests. Online gaming combines kids’ interest in technology, community, and play itself. As gaming migrates quickly to handheld devices, parents will have even less control over  where and when kids play online and who else may be playing. It’s up to parents to visit–and understand–these new playgrounds.

Halo to go?

Halo on the go--a brave new playground.


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